A look at cricket's next generation of potential greats
Kumar Sangakkara and Michael Clarke have finally hung up their boots and in so doing have brought the curtains down on probably one of the greatest generations of Test batsmen which included names like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis, Mahela Jayawardene, Ricky Ponting and Brian Lara.
This is a very interesting phase in Test cricket considering the next generation of potential greats have already readied themselves, some of them have already been handed the reins of their national teams in at least one format.
The transitional generation doesn’t have a lot of big names and a list of most prolific run-scorers in the last three years throws up, delightfully, a lot of young names, names which have potential greatness written all over them.
The transitional greats
Defining greatness is always a tough act, but whatever the yardstick is, three batsmen in contemporary cricket, still in their prime, have already achieved it - Alastair Cook, AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla.
Cook is closing in on 31 years and has 9,330 runs at an average of 46. Yet, so early did he start that he is probably the only player in a long time to have a genuine shot at Tendulkar’s numbers.
AB de Villiers is closing in on 32 and has 7,606 runs at an average of 52. Amla is 32 and has 6,770 runs at 52 as well.
There are others on the fringes like Ian Bell who hasn’t had a great 2015 Ashes barring one Test.
Younis Khan is in the twilight of his career too and Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers have both ended their careers.
Barring these names, most of the prolific run-getters of the last few years are part of the young brigade.
There are quite a few players who are under 30 and have a healthy rivalry going on among themselves.
In the last three years, Australia has had the best two batsmen in terms of runs - David Warner, nearly 29 years old with more than 3,000 runs at nearly 47 and Steven Smith, 26 years of age with close to 3,000 runs at a stupendous average of 56.
Angelo Mathews is 28 years old too and has scored 2,500 runs out of his overall 3,801 at 62.95 in the last three years. In fact, his batting has taken off after taking over as captain, like Smith.
The same is also true about Virat Kohli, who has scored 2,794 runs at 46, closing in on 27 years.
To complete the league of terrific players are Joe Root, who has 2,733 runs at around 57 and Kane Williamson, with 3,199 runs at 45. Williamson is just 25 and Root hasn’t even turned 25 yet.
Another player who sneaks into the list quietly, much like his batting, is the under-appreciated Cheteshwar Pujara who has scored close to 1,900 runs at 51 in the last three years and at 27 is part of the younger brigade.
Dinesh Chandimal is another contender, especially considering the innings he recently played against India, one of the best innings of all time by a Sri Lankan.
Leaders in the making
Interestingly, most of these players have been moulded as leaders.
Mathews, for example, is Sri Lanka’s skipper in all formats like Smith is for Australia. Mathews, despite his young age, is the most experienced player in a young Sri Lankan side in transition.
Williamson has led New Zealand’s One-Day International side recently.
Kohli is the Test captain for India and Root is being groomed for a leadership role although it could be a while before the team is handed to him in Tests or in ODIs.
The future greats
Some batsmen fulfil their potential, while some don’t keep the promise their talent makes to their fans.
But it is certainly worthwhile to take a look at the batting averages of some of the youngest batsmen in the circuit over the last three years.
Among the top 50 run-getters over the last three years, only three batsmen have scored at an average of over 60 – Smith, Mathews and de Villiers.
However, in terms of impact, Warner is right up there with 28 fifty-plus scores including 10 centuries. Only Smith has more centuries - 11.
However, Smith has just 21 scores of 50 or more, which means Warner leads the pack by a mile and he is the only batsman in the top 50 to have a strike rate of over 70.
Only Root, Cook and Mathews have more than 20 scores of 50 or more over the last three years.
Kohli, despite fewer 50s, has an amazing conversion rate with nine of his 15 scores higher than 50 being centuries.
The 24-year-old Bangladesh batsman Mominul Haque is another who raises eyebrows with his average of 56 in 30 innings.
He was on an excellent streak of fifties in consecutive Tests until recently and has already racked up 13 fifty-plus scores.
Mathews shows his class as a finisher with most not outs among the top 50, nine in the last three years.
There are no clear-cut front-runners as of now in world cricket, among the under-30 cricketers.
No one has taken a very clear lead, although Root being the youngest has a great start and hence advantage.
At the present frenetic pace, Smith, Root and Williamson would have clearly racked up a lot more runs than the other three – Warner, Kohli and Mathews but for the sake of cricket and its lovers, it would be nice to see a healthy competition amongst these six batsmen in particular, all of who are likely, at their present pace to touch the 10,000 run mark, the true sign of greatness and legendary status in Test batting.
How many of them will actually make it, remains a good question and one we can return to in a few years from now.
© Cricket World 2015